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Academic misconduct (cheating) in exams

Guidance and examples to help you avoid committing academic misconduct during your online and in-person exams.

Academic misconduct

The University's definition of academic misconduct is to "use unfair means in any examination or assessment procedure" (Regulation 7).

Acts of academic misconduct involve students seeking to:

  • gain an unfair advantage over their peers during an assessment.
  • misrepresent their knowledge and skills to academic staff to obtain higher grades.
  • mislead future employers.

The University takes such offences very seriously and the penalties, which range from having to retake an exam to being expelled from the University, reflect this (see QA53 Examination and Assessment Offences for more details).

If you are unsure of what you can or cannot do in your exam, please read The Academic Integrity Statement for Remote Assessments and the examples of misconduct provided in QA53 Examination and Assessment Offences. Please also speak to your Personal Tutor, Director of Studies or Unit Convenor ahead of time.

Exams are designed to test your individual understanding and knowledge of your discipline, without external assistance, in a time-pressured environment. This is true for all exams.

In summary you should avoid:

  • communicating with others during your exam (unless you are seeking assistance from the exam helpline or invigilator).
  • collaborating with others, for example, the sharing of answers.
  • using papers or information that you did not create yourself (unless stated on your exam paper you can do so).

Authorised and unauthorised communication and sources of information

It is important you are aware of the difference between authorised and unauthorised communication and sources of information.

Authorised

If your exam requires or allows you to use external sources of information, as a rule, authorised sources include those that are signposted to you by your course tutors and University services, such as Library resources (books, e-books, journals, e-journals, and reading lists).

During an exam you can, and are encouraged to, communicate with official sources of help if you are having difficulties, such as the IT help desk, the exam helpline, or an invigilator (in-person exams only).

Unauthorised

Examples that would be considered unauthorised and therefore an assessment offence include:

  • Contract cheating This includes using e-cheating tools to produce your exam attempt, such as essay mills and model answer sites like Chegg. Please remain vigilant as such tools are extremely wide-ranging, often most easily accessible via search engines, and may be predatory (contacting you via email, social media, or messaging apps) or promotional (featured content from advertising providers). Some require a fee, others are free.

  • Collusion This includes discussing questions and answers with peers before the exam has ended.

  • Breaching exam regulations This includes having prohibited notes or other materials at your desk during an in-person exam or having a communication device, such as a smart watch or phone with you during an in-person exam.

Activity like this during online or in-person exams goes against:

And failing to observe these rules is an assessment offence.

Advice for taking an online exam

If you are uncertain, treat these exams as if they were invigilated and taking place in an exam hall. We strongly recommend you minimise all opportunities for communication by doing the following:

  • Sit your exam on your own and in a private space.
  • Disable email and remove any desktop messaging apps from the device you are using during your exam attempt.
  • Disable notifications on your phone and keep it away from you unless you really need it to contact the helpline or use it in submitting your exam.
  • Do not talk about questions and answers until the exam has ended.

Communicating with the IT help desk or exams helpline is encouraged if you are experiencing technical problems during an online exam. However other forms of communication could be considered an academic offence, for example:

  • Talking with peers about questions and answers.
  • Sharing your work.
  • Working with peers to write your work.
  • Uploading others’ work during the exam period.

You may discuss with your friends, family, or housemates how you are feeling to get support from those around you, but please do not discuss exam questions or answers either in seeking or offering support.

Some other examples of what could be considered an offence that you may not have considered include:

  • Being an observer to a group chat about your exam whilst it is ongoing.
  • Responding (positively) to a request from a fellow student for help with a question, even if you don't see the question itself.
  • Posting exam questions to a model answer site, such as Chegg, even if you don't use the answers provided.

Advice for taking an in-person exam

An in-person exam will be invigilated to ensure that students abide by the exam rules and regulations.

Most in-person exams will not allow you to have any additional material with you beyond what is provided and what you need to write your answers. You also won’t be able to leave the room unaccompanied if you wish to return to your desk.

For in-person exams we advise you do the following:

  • Don’t bring anything with you that you don’t need to take your exam.
  • If you have your phone or smart watch with you turn it off and leave it at the front of the hall as instructed.
  • Don’t attempt to communicate with anyone other than the invigilator or your support worker (if applicable).

Sources of support before, during, and after assessments

We understand that assessment periods can be very stressful. We have a range of services available to provide support and guidance for you to ensure that you are ready for your assessments and able to uphold ethical scholarship practices:

Student Guide to Exams – has advice and guidance on taking both online and in-person exams.

Academic Integrity webpages – these pages contain links to our digital training package, the Ethical Scholar Toolkit, which provides guidance on referencing and avoiding plagiarism, as well as a referencing database. There is also a link to the University’s regulatory document, QA53, and a summary of your responsibilities as a student for maintaining your own academic integrity.

Academic Integrity Statement for Remote Assessments – a reminder of your agreement with the University to uphold our community’s ethical scholarship standards.

The Skills Centre – experienced staff in the Skills Centre can provide group or individual assistance on developing assessment skills and helping you to solve challenges you are facing with your academic work.

The Library – our expert librarians can help you with research skills, referencing support, and finding appropriate resources for your studies.

The Wellbeing Service – our professionals are here to provide advice and support on student wellbeing and welfare throughout your degree.

Student Support Services – our team are available to provide assistance with your needs and to help you get the most out of your degree.

SU Advice and Support Centre – the SU advisors offer confidential, non-judgemental information, advice, and support on any issues you may be facing during your degree.

Exams and Assessments hub– has information on what to do if you cannot take or continue with your exam or if you think your attempt might be affected, and links to many of the pages listed above.